Last week, the state of Tennessee was rocked by the news of a tragic bus accident that left eight people dead and 14 others with serious personal injuries. While state and federal officials are still trying to piece together the exact events leading up to the deadly crash, friends and family of the victims are also searching for their own answers.
According to preliminary reports, a church bus carrying 18 elderly people from a North Carolina-based congregation was making its way home on I-40 last Wednesday afternoon from a three-day gospel festival in Gatlinburg.
Things took a tragic turn roughly 30 miles outside of Knoxville, when the front left tire of the church bus somehow managed to break down, sending the bus careening over the median and directly through a cable-rail system into oncoming traffic.
In a truly horrific chain reaction crash, the church bus first collided head-on with a Chevrolet Tahoe and then proceeded to crash into an oncoming semi truck, igniting a massive inferno that was likely fueled in part by the load of paper towels carried in the tractor-trailer.
Among those killed in the motor vehicle accident were the semi-truck driver, one of the passengers in the Tahoe and six passengers of the church bus.
"We are devastated and just ask for the people to be praying," said an official with the 375-member North Carolina church.
While some initially pointed to the failure of the cable-rail system as one of the primary reasons for the crash, the Tennessee Highway Patrol has since indicated that both cable-rail systems and traditional metal guardrail systems are simply not built to withstand head-on collisions from large-scale vehicles.
It is worth noting that vehicles like church buses are not subject to the same Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration standards as commercial buses/charter vehicles.
Specifically, FMCSA guidelines dictate that church buses like the one involved in the crash do not need to maintain paperwork demonstrating that safety checks and/or maintenance work had been performed, or other records concerning a driver's qualifications or their hours logged.
Furthermore drivers of church buses need only have a valid commercial driver's license, while the church buses only have to undergo an annual inspection and be registered with the Department of Transportation in order to cross state lines.
Stay tuned for further updates on this truly heartrending story ...
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a motor vehicle crash or bus accident here in Tennessee, remember to consider speaking with a dedicated legal professional to learn more about how you can pursue justice.
Source: USA Today, "IDs of bus crash victims hampered by 'horrific' scene," Doug Stanglin and Meghan Hoyer, October 3, 2013